New PNE boss has promotion pedigree

New man in charge: Simon Grayson at Deepdale yesterday afternoon
New man in charge: Simon Grayson at Deepdale yesterday afternoon
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If ever there was a League One promotion specialist then surely Simon Grayson is it.

The former Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers player was announced as Preston’s new manager yesterday – replacing Graham Westley, who was sacked last week.

And the 43-year-old certainly knows what it takes to get clubs promoted into the Championship.

In managerial spells at Blackpool, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town, Grayson has presided over three successful League One promotion campaigns.

And while his three-year stint at the helm of PNE’s arch-rivals Blackpool may not endear him to certain sections of the North End faithful, if he can repeat his past success while in the Deepdale hotseat, then surely all that will be forgotten.

Grayson cut his coaching and managerial teeth at Bloomfield Road after initially signing for the Tangerines as a player in 2002.

He made more than 100 appearances for Blackpool before taking over as the club’s reserve-team manager in 2004.

In November 2005, he took control of first-team affairs – in a caretaker player-manager capacity – following the departure of Colin Hendry.

As a manager, Grayson enjoyed instant hero status with Tangerines supporters when he guided the team to safety that season.

He was handed the job on a permanent basis the following season and retired from playing to concentrate solely on management.

In his first full season as a boss, Grayson won two manager of the month awards as he took Blackpool to within a whisker of automatic promotion.

An amazing winning run towards the end of the season almost saw Blackpool pip Bristol City to second place in the final league standings.

They eventually finished two points behind City in third spot, but carried their great league form into the end-of-season play-offs.

Dismissing Oldham Athletic 5-2 over two legs in the play-off semi-finals, Blackpool secured promotion thanks to a 2-0 victory over Yeovil Town in the final at Wembley – it was their 10th consecutive victory, which was a new club record.

It was the first time Blackpool had reached the second tier of English football since 1978.

Grayson consolidated Blackpool’s position the following season and it did not take long for him to be linked with other clubs.

The pull of becoming the next manager of Leeds – the club he had supported as a boy – was too strong for Grayson and he resigned his position at Bloomfield Road in December 2008.

Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston admitted at the time it was inevitable Grayson would move on to a bigger club – paying tribute to his work.

He said:“Every one of the three seasons he’s had at Blackpool, he’s made some massive achievements.

“The first year he kept us up when we looked absolutely dead and buried. I still rate that as his biggest achievement.

“He’s clearly very talented, committed and has a very good work ethic that he instils into the team.”

Despite initially being refused permission to speak to Leeds by Blackpool, Grayson eventually took over the reins at Elland Road – replacing Gary McAllister – in time for their Boxing Day clash against Leicester City.

The club, at the time, was in League One after a spectacular fall from grace and when Grayson took over, Leeds had suffered five straight defeats.

He immediately embarked on turning the club’s fortunes around and guided the club to a fourth-place finish at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat the success he enjoyed with Blackpool the previous season as Leeds lost out in the play-off semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate to Millwall.

The following season was a huge success for Leeds as they finished second and secured automatic promotion by beating Bristol City 2-1 on the final day of the season.

During that season, they also enjoyed a memorable 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.

It was the first time they had defeated United away from home since 1981.

Leeds continued to be upwardly mobile under Grayson’s leadership in their first season back in the Championship.

But despite looking certainties for a play-off place after defeating league leaders and eventual champions Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at home, Leeds slipped out of promotion contention – eventually finishing in seventh spot.

Many good football judges believe Grayson was harshly sacked by Leeds on February 1, 2012 despite the team being only three points outside the Championship play-offs.

A 4-1 home defeat to Birmingham City was considered unacceptable by Leeds chairman Ken Bates, who replaced Grayson with Neil Warnock.

A club statement at the time said: “We have 18 games to go this season and are still within touching distance of the play-offs.

“We felt with the transfer window closed we needed to make the change at this time in the belief that a new managerial team will be able to get more out of the existing squad of players and make the difference.”

It didn’t take long for Grayson to return to football management as just 19 days after being sacked by Leeds, he was installed as the next boss of Huddersfield Town – replacing Lee Clark.

The Terriers had been left disappointed the previous season when they suffered play-off final heartbreak against Peterborough United at Old Trafford.

Grayson was tasked with winning automatic promotion by Town chairman Dean Hoyle when he took charge, but was unable to finish higher than fourth place in the final League One table in 2012.

Nevetheless, Huddersfield booked their place in the Championship by defeating Sheffield United on penalties in a nail-biting play-off final at Wembley.

The game ended 0-0 after extra-time and Town prevailed 8-7 in the ensuing penalty shoot-out – despite missing their first three spot-kicks!

The Blades missed three of their opening four penalties and it was ex-PNE goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, who handed Huddersfield promotion, when he ballooned the 16th penalty over the bar.

Grayson was sacked by Town in January of this year after a run of 12 games without a win.

In a long playing career, Grayson began at Leeds, but made only two appearances before joining Leicester City.

A full-back, who could also play in midfield, Grayson made more than 200 appearances for the Foxes before being sold for £1.3m to Aston Villa. He later had spells at Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday, Stockport, Notts County and Bradford City.